TikTok is the platform for Gen Z. And if you have a product that appeals to a younger audience, you’re missing out by not having a presence on this social network. Recently, the floodgates were opened for paid advertising on TikTok, so sponsored ads are being served in users’ feeds. But before you plan your TikTok campaigns, you need to understand the platform.

The Medium Is the Message

Do you think that you’re going to simply be able to port over your Instagram and Facebook ads to TikTok? Think again.

Consider the differences between brand advertising on LinkedIn and Facebook. Sure, a brand can exist in both spaces. But the types of messages that pop up in the professional world’s social media platform are very different from those that show up in the world’s largest personal social network.

TikTok, too, requires ads that are tailored to its audience. This social network was built on the premise of people creating short-form mobile videos that are quirky, funny and fast-paced. This isn’t your grandma’s social network—the videos are often bizarre and full of non sequiturs, the perfect hotbed for humor of the younger generation. Truly, the medium is the message—you better adapt your content to make it a good fit.

In-Feed Advertising

Like every other social platform on the block, TikTok lets brands insert in-feed advertisements to promote their products. However, brands looking to make a splash on TikTok are going to have to ditch their perfectly lit product shots and overly contrived influencer poses.

The users of TikTok are more interested in something real, unpolished and even oddball, according to Evan Horowitz, CEO of the agency Movers and Shakers, in an interview with AdAge. “If Instagram is all about your aspirational best life, super-polished and filtered,” Horowitz said, “then TikTok is really about being raw, honest and filming in your bedroom.”

Power of the Hashtag Challenge

The fuel that powers TikTok is the hashtag challenge. The best example right now is the “Flip the Switch” challenge that everyone is talking about. You start with two people standing in front of a mirror. One stone-faced person is holding the phone while the other is dancing. When the lyric “flip the switch” comes up in Drake’s song “Nonstop,” the lights go off and the two people switch places and clothes. Flip the Switch videos run the gamut from Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez to a dad and his daughter in which he puts on his little girl’s clothes.

What makes hashtag challenges so much fun is that they are wacky and reproducible. This drive for people wanting to participate can be explained through social cognitive theory, which posits that people are motivated to model the behaviors of others. And while many brands have hopped on a hashtag challenge, others are using the TikTok advertising platform to promote their own challenge.

Sponsoring Branded Hashtag Challenges

At its core, creating a hashtag challenge is more about brand awareness than it is about CTR, CPC or online conversions. The digital marketing play here is to promote a challenge that aligns with your brand and reap the rewards of both (1) impressions from user-generated content and (2) earned media from outlets talking about your challenge.

One brand that did this well was the apparel company Guess, with their #InMyDenim challenge meant to appeal to Gen Z consumers during the back-to-school season in 2018. Not only did Guess pay to do a branded takeover of the TikTok homepage to advertise their challenge, they also partnered with multiple influencers to show their denim style.

TikTok reports the results of this challenge on their website, saying that over the course of six days, the #InMyDenim campaign sparked:

  • 5,550+ UGC videos
  • 10.5M video views
  • 14%+ engagement rate
  • 12,000 new followers for Guess on TikTok

Creating a Sponsored Lens

During the 2020 Super Bowl, soda brand Mtn Dew launched a commercial spoofing Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The spot was a promotion for their Mtn Dew Zero beverage with the tagline “as good as the original”—in the commercial, well-known scenes were played by different actors.

The company became one of the first CPG brands to develop a branded “effect” for TikTok, turning the person filming into a twin to complement the television spot and encouraging people to use the hashtag #BetterThanTheOG” on their posts.

Don’t Let that TikTok UGC Gold Go to Waste

If you’re going to put a lot of effort and money into a branded hashtag challenge or a sponsored-lens campaign, you shouldn’t let that UGC go to waste. That is where the TINT platform can help. As it recently announced, TINT now gives brands the ability to embed TikTok videos on their website and digital displays.

By using the TINT Content Finder extension for Chrome, you can quickly navigate to the specific TikTok video you want to embed and choose the location you want to feature the video. Now, your brand can leverage all the hard work you’re doing on TikTok by featuring user-generated content on your site. If you’re looking for an innovative way to connect with Gen Z, be sure to request a TINT demo today to learn more about our TikTok integration!


Garrett Heath is a social media and content marketing consultant and founder of MarketingBytes.io.